THE MISSION OF ASK A BADASS
Ask a Badass is an advice column where readers questions are answered by history's unsung women.
Ask a Badass is about letting the untold stories of women throughout history speak to us in our language. No matter how extreme or complicated our problems, someone broke a path before us, however rocky and obscured. The answers are works of historical fiction. Where established facts end, stories begin.
I heard _______’s story differently?
All historical fiction writers have to do some guesswork, even when covering someone well documented. Look how many different biographies someone like Napoleon or Shakespeare has. Our women are largely missing from the established historical record, with limited primary source documents. Their stories are ambiguous and many details are unclear. In writing their columns, I have to decide what story suits the subject.
____________ isn’t a very good person.
All of our women have flaws. Some were naïve, some were misguided, some were downright despotic. I am trying to explore what we might learn from their experience and that means sometimes presenting a point of view I may personally disagree with.
So if ________ is not a good person, why should I ask her for advice?
Because you may see in her story something to help you with your dilemma.
Did you know that portrait isn’t from real life?
Yes. Relatively few of the women featured here have any depiction of them made during their lifetimes. I try to find portraits as close to life as possible, but sometimes that means using a well-researched image from an entirely different time period. The goal is to get close to accuracy, while giving some sense of the individual woman.
Why do you use modern place names?
I think of it as part of the translation. These women didn’t speak modern American English either. I use a contemporary idiom to draw a parallel between their experiences and ours. Contemporary place names allow you to hear their stories without being distracted by trying to guess where they’re from.